Post by Rob Minton
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In a recent Twitter update, I wrote:
"Great time/life management question to ask yourself: "Will what I'm doing right now matter in 5 years?"
This is very challenging way to view what we do from day-to-day because it forces you to focus on the most important activities. You'll also quickly find the low value activities. The beauty of this one simple question is that it doesn't require a special Day Planner or fancy time management system to track your time. It simply helps you make better choices about what you do and what you don't do. As an example, compare the following two activities:
1. Watching a sporting event or game on TV.
2. Reading a book with your child.
Which of these two activities will matter in 5 years? At first you might think, neither. But as you think about it further, you'll see that reading the book with your child will matter a great deal more in 5 years than watching a sporting event. You never know the impact of the time you spend with others.
Let's walk through another comparison together. However, this time we will focus on work. Which of these two activities will matter more in 5 years?
1. Attending a home inspection for a home you sold.
2. Reading a book about marketing.
The book on marketing seems like it would be the better option because the lessons you learned would still be adding value to you 5 years down the road. The funny thing is that I've had to actually stop and think about my choices differently. At first, you might argue with me on this example and say that the home inspection might help prevent a buyer from buying the wrong home. This is definitely true. However, let's consider the impact of a great book on marketing. Would the book allow you to help many more buyers vs. the one?
Since my "tweet" on this topic, I've been using this little question almost every day to analyze what I'm doing. I can honestly say that this one little question can transform your life. The reason is because this question gets you to instantly focus on what is important and cuts away and the unimportant.
Will writing this blog post matter in 5 years?
It will, if it helps one person make better choices about how they spend their time. (Maybe you might spend more time with your kids….) What if my answer would have been "No" this blog post won't matter in 5 years. What then? Well, I shouldn't write it. I shouldn't spend my time on things that don't matter. Neither should you.
This question allows you to apply the 80/20 rule to all areas of your life. It gets you to focus on the most important 20% activities. I'm definitely not perfect with this by any stretch of the imagination. I've made some poor choices about my time in the past. This really doesn't matter. What matters is what I do with my time right now. What matters is what I do with my time tomorrow and next week.
Since adopting this little time/life management question, I've found two similarities in my choices…
1. Doing something for or with someone else always seems to outweigh any other choice of how to use your time. This is simply because we do not know what the future holds for us, or for the other person. We tend to worry about our future, but what about the future of the people in your life?
My daughter wanted to volunteer at the Humane Society. She isn't old enough to volunteer on her own, which meant I had to volunteer and she could come along with me. We had to attend classes and be trained. I was getting a little irritated at first because volunteering wasn't my idea. I wasn't sure that walking dogs and playing with them was the best use of my time. Well, after asking this little life management question, I instantly realized that the time with my daughter mattered more than just about anything else.
2. Reading, studying or learning always seems to outweigh many of the trivial things we do from day-to-day. For example, I could spend 2 hours tonight watching TV, or I could use this same time to read Seneca's book titled "On the Shortness of Life." When you start asking yourself this little questions, you'll be amazed at how much time we tend to waste on a daily basis.
Speaking of Seneca's book, I thought I would wrap up this blog post with a quote, from the book, which had a profound impact on me. Here it is…
"…it is the sign of a great man, and one who is above human error, not to allow his time to frittered away: he has the longest possible life simply because whatever time was available he devoted entirely to himself. None of it lay fallow and neglected, none of it under another's control; for being an extremely thrifty guardian of his time he never found anything for which it was exchanging."
Time really is our most important asset. This asset dwindles every single day. The problem is we aren't paying attention to it. We freak out when the value of our 401k drops, but we don't even bat an eye when our time is wasted.
We trade our time for the most trivial things. The time/life management question included above forces us to analyze our time as an important asset. It helps us start to see what is important and what isn't.